1. ITV Report

Tax avoidance schemes 'becoming less widespread'

File photo of Gary Barlow Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Tax schemes like the one that was used by Gary Barlow and other wealthy individuals were much more commonplace in the past but have become less popular as regulators close loopholes and publicity about them has grown, experts have said.

Tax adviser Ronnie Ludwig said the schemes were legal but involve an interpretation of the rules so that individuals pay minimal amounts of income tax.

Those such as Icebreaker Management which was used by Barlow, involve the company that has been invested in reporting huge losses, which are then offset against tax.

Promoters of such schemes often market them with promises of large savings and underplay the risks, but stricter regulation such as the General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR) which came into force in July last year along with publicity following revelations in the media about celebrities such as Barlow, Jimmy Carr and Chris Moyles using them have led industry experts to believe they will eventually become a thing of the past.

Chartered financial planner Jonathan Davis said such schemes are "dreamt up by lawyers or accountants" and then "marketed left, right and centre up and down the country" to wealthy individuals.

File photo dated 25/03/10 of money. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

But he said that a "mere second glance" at them would show them they were not real businesses.

"Some are based on statute, some on interpretations of statute," he said.

"I think it's the one based on interpretations of statute, such as in media investments, that seems to be the type that Gary Barlow has used.

"All of a sudden the business loses a lot of money and then that of course is claimed against other profits. The problem is if it's not a real business in the first place.

"Hundreds if not thousands of very wealthy folk have got investments in these sorts of schemes but with a mere second glance it's obvious it wasn't a real business."

Mr Davis criticised those who came up with the schemes in the first place, who sometimes charge fees of up to 20% of the tax that is going to be saved.

"The top lawyers and accountants in the country have been marketing these to the very wealthy for years," he said.

"Maybe we should be auditing these lawyers and accountants - why are they not being investigated?"